We first made this recipe a little over a month ago while working with a client who really liked Italian but needed some new healthy recipes. One of the most Italian things I can think of is pasta with meatballs and red sauce, so we began creating a way to make a plant-based version of this staples and make it taste delicious. And I can tell you right now.....mission accomplished. :)
After doing some research (thank you Google!) and looking at others veggie versions of Italian meatballs, we decided on garbanzo beans as the base. I don't know about you, but I love garbanzo beans and it is a shame to only showcase them as hummus when they clearly have so much more potential! By themselves they have a great nutty flavor, but when mixed with other seasonings and spices they can really blow you away. We made a big batch in a crock pot. Some went into this recipe, but the rest will go into some tasty salads or whatever else we feel like mixing up. Yum!
This recipe is fairly simply to complete and only requires 8 ingredients. If you are looking at the picture above and wondering why there are only 6 ingredients pictured....well....me too. Apparently I didn't think the flax egg or the Italian seasoning deserved to be in the shot. Sorry about that. But do you like how I fanned out the teaspoons?! :)
For the first part of preparation, I started out using the food processor to mix up all the ingredients except for the garbanzo beans. This worked well to get all the stronger flavor components of the dish chopped small enough and mixed together.
Next is when I added the garbanzo beans. At first I added them into the food processor with the rest of the mixture, but was having a hard time getting all the beans to work their way down to the blade. After scraping down the sides several times, I decided to move the beans and the rest of the mixture to a larger bowl and use a masher to finish breaking down the beans.
This worked quite well to finish the job and after a minute or two of mashing, I was ready to start making the balls.
If you have kids, I think this would be a fun recipe to get them involved in. They'll probably enjoy getting to form the balls in their hands and roll them in the topping mixture. And if you have any picky eaters, they are probably more likely to eat the food since they had a part in making it! We once had my nephew help us make a kale salad were he had to massage guacamole into the kale with his hands in a large bowl. When dinner time came around we didn't even have to coerce him into eating the salad. He was so proud of it he was even saying to his dad, "daddy have you tried the salad I made?".
Almost done! Just need to put in the oven.
The finished product! Although I have to admit...after this photo I put another scoop of sauce over the bean balls, but I thought it would be a little bit more picturesque if they were showcased for you.
We used a homemade red sauce and whole wheat noodles for our pasta night. And the best part is that there are left overs! Talk about an awesome lunch tomorrow.
And now for the recipe!
Italian Bean Balls
Makes About: 20 2-inch balls
1 Flax egg (1 Tbsp flax seed meal + 3 Tbsp water)
9 cloves garlic, minced or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of garlic granules
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup loosely packed chopped sun-dried tomatoes (dry packed, not oil packed)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast plus more for topping
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes,more if desired
4 1/2 cups chickpeas (3 15-oz cans)
2 Tbsp Nutritional yeast flakes
3 Tbsp (12 g) panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375. Pour boiling water over the dried tomatoes. Prepare the flax egg in a small bowl by mixing flax meal and water together and let rest for a few minutes.
Sauté garlic with a touch of water until aromatic and soft. Set aside. *If using garlic granuals, skip to the next step and add granules to food processor.
Add panko bread crumbs, sun-dried tomatoes, nutritional yeast, garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and flax egg to food processor. Blend until small bits remain, scraping down sides as needed. Add chickpeas and pulse until moldable dough is formed. If needed, you can add a little bit more water. Chickpeas should be broken down, but not turned into paste. If you don't have a food processor, you can use a potato masher as well. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
Scoop out small portions of mixture and form/roll into balls. Roughly 20 balls, or more if you make them smaller. Next roll the individual balls in the nutritional yeast/panko bread crumb mixture. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat the place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn oven to broil and cook for an additional 5 minutes. When beanballs have some golden brown on them and are firm to the touch, remove them from from the oven.